NEW DELHI: The US is fast consolidating its position as India’s largest arms supplier with a flurry of new defence deals and joint projects, after having inked the expansive new 10-year defence framework in June and bagging contracts worth $10 billion over the last eight years.
Sources said the Manohar Parrikar-led defence acquisitions council (DAC), in its meeting slated for Tuesday, is likely to clear the decks for acquisition of another four P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for almost $1 billion.
“The contract negotiation committee (CNC) has completed its work. Now, the DAC approval is needed for the offsets deviation. The proposed contract will then go to the finance ministry for vetting before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for the final nod,” said a source.
This “follow-on contract” comes even as the Navy has now inducted seven of the eight P-8Is ordered from Boeing in the $2.1 billion deal inked in January 2009. Based at the Arakkonam naval air station in Tamil Nadu, these radar-packed aircraft serve as “intelligent hawk-eyes” over the Indian Ocean. They are also armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges to take on enemy warships and submarines.
Simultaneously, Pentagon and South Block are also set to begin fresh negotiations next week for the proposed $770 million contract for M-777 ultra-light howitzers, under which the bulk of the 145 artillery guns to be acquired in the government-to-government deal will be made in India.
The 155mm/39-calibre lightweight howitzers, with a strike range over 25km range, can be swiftly airlifted to “threatened high-altitude areas” facing China, which outguns and outnumbers Indian troops all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control.